Don’t Get Lost, A Short Tribute To A Life. – By Stephen Stachofsky.
My grandmother was a force of nature. Mother of three, my mom being the middle child, married for 63 years, she is survived by her husband, three children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. At just barely over five feet tall my grandmother was capable of looking at a mountain, and telling it to move, and it would. She loved her family, her faith, her art, and her garden more than anything.
My grandparents were born at the tail end of the 1930’s, and being born to a country still struggling with the Great Depression left its mark on her for her whole life. It made her into an extraordinarily self-sufficient woman. A violinist and teacher by trade, she had the iron will to teach not only other people’s children but her own and her grandchildren to boot. Arguing with her was pointless. I’m pretty sure it would have been easier to change the course of a river than get her to change her mind.
Growing up in Indiana, my sisters and I spent many summer months in her house. Those days taught me a lot. First, I don’t like to garden, but fresh veggies are the best. Second, practice makes permanent, not perfect, but when in doubt a ruthless overseer helps you get close to perfection. Third, you can spend many good hours working on something, and tomorrow there will still be something to work on, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get to rest. Tomorrow’s work will come tomorrow, so do today’s work today.
My grandmother was a lifelong musician and she paved the way for me to follow that course as well. She bought me my first cello when I was five, and made sure my lessons were paid for each year. When I was in her house, she made sure I practiced for at least an hour a day, usually more than once. I can remember her shouting from another room of the house anytime I played something less than my best. But her iron will always hid a softspot, and particularly rough practice days often ended with popsicles or trips to get ice cream. If i could manage it, I would hide out in the shop with Grandpa’s classic cars trying not to get too in the way until I thought she had forgotten about practicing. She never forgot about practicing.
As I got older it was the best way to connect with Grandma, especially after she retired from teaching, and eventually playing. She had arthritis in her hands that made playing at the professional level she could play at very difficult. Though the doctors always said that her hands were better than they should be for her age because she played. Whenever I would visit as I got into my teenage years and early twenties, I brought my cello so that we could play together. She and my sister, and I would play trios together at every family holiday. The last time we got to do that together was for Mothers Day 2022.
My grandmother had an unending love for classic broadway musicals. Between her and my father, it’s no surprise I eventually studied music as a vocalist and not a cellist. Recently, because her pain was keeping her awake, we would watch old movie productions of musicals like Kiss Me Kate, Guys and Dolls, or Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Almost all of the musicals she loved had one thing in common, Howard Keel. If you’ve never heard Keel sing, look him up. The guy had pipes. My grandmother was always enamored with his singing. I got lucky in also being a baritone. I wish I had learned some more music from those musicals for her.
People from my grandparents’ generation often had trouble telling their kids, and by extension their grandkids, “I love you”. We never had any doubts whether they did or didn’t love us, we knew they did. My grandparents always had the best holidays. They always made sure to show some genuine interest in our hobbies or social lives. They always gave great advice. Both my grandparents loved Disney World and took their grandkids multiple times. They took me to see the Lion King Broadway cast when it came to Indianapolis. They took me to see Treasure Planet, and the live action Peter Pan with Jason Isaacs. They helped form my love for King Arthur, Narnia and Star Wars by always knowing what I was big into when they got us Christmas or birthday gifts. But they very rarely said “I love you”. With my grandmother gone, looking back on it now, I am reminded of what she always said instead, “Don’t get lost.”
“Don’t get lost.”
It is a simple statement really. She never said it with any genuine fear that we might somehow actually get lost going home, to the grocery store, or to get the mail, but she said it almost every time we parted company, be it for five minutes or five weeks, or for the rest of my life. It was a command, and a reminder. An admonishment and a promise of the future. Grandma never said “don’t get lost” with any tone, or any malice. It was a statement that had nothing to do with anyone’s geographical location, or their knowledge of where they were. She said “Don’t get lost,” and she meant I love you, but even more she meant, “I know what you could be, what you have it in yourself to be, and I want you to get there. I want to see you become the best of yourself, and then I want you to get better.” My grandmother didn’t expect anything less than your best, and she never chided when you weren’t there yet. She just reminded you not to get lost.
I will miss her very much, but I know she’s not lost. Look on faith however you will, I believe I will get to see her again someday, and I’ll do my best not to get lost along the way. As for you, dear reader, I know this falls well outside the norm for blog posts on our website, and well outside the normal paradigm of what we cover here on this podcast, but in case anyone hasn’t told you yet today, “Don’t get lost.” If you are lost, there is always a way through. I am reminded of the words of Bilbo Baggins, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” If you’re lost, someone is telling you “Don’t get lost.” They don’t mean you’re broken or worthless because you are lost, but that they know you can get through this, and you’ll be better for it. I believe it is true. My grandmother knew it was true. Somehow I’ve made it this far and I know that I’ll find my way here as long as I don’t get lost.
“Today marks two years since the first episode of Storytelling Breakdown first debuted. That said, today is a day our team is thinking of Stephen and his family. We hope you get to spend some time today experiencing the art you love with the people you love. It can be a roadmap that lasts for generations.” – the Storytelling Breakdown Team.